On my previous blog, I occasionally hosted Monday postings entitled “Marriage Monday,” where either I or another blogger would write about a specific idea or issue cropping up in our marriage, with discussion continued in the comments section. I was never able to successfully manage posting every Monday but we did have several interesting and engaging conversations. Since it is Monday and I have a few free minutes to blog, I thought I would write a Marriage Monday post. If you ever feel like submitting an idea or writing a guest post, let me know in the comment section or via email!
And, as always, thesesandwichdays believes any couple who wants to be married, should be – we are equal opportunity around here!
Lately, Ian has been working longer, more intense hours. His job poses hourly challenges, especially when it comes to managing his 20+ employees and hitting the quarterly numbers his team needs to hit. He and I handle work stress quite differently – when faced with stressful situations I fall headlong into hideous bouts of insomnia that are only cured by swimming as many laps as possible a day. Ian? Well, he goes to sleep. He gets in bed early and sleeps as late as the day dictates, finding a good 7-9 hours of sleep the most restorative thing he can do. When periods of time like this hit, without guilt or remorse he will let the majority of chores and “to dos” slide, and that is why I found myself last Wednesday hauling our garbage and recylcing to the curb. I believe – staunchly – that taking out the garbage falls into Ian’s chore “territory” whenever he is in town. I felt extroardinarily grumbly about this at the time, internally cataloguing his chore list against my own and finding him sorely lacking. When he looked out the back door a half an hour or so later, he looked at me with a kind of amazement and asked, “Did you take out the trash?”
“Yes, I did,” I said, keeping my complaints to myself for the moment. I was feeling stoic.
“I almost want to cry,” he said. “Thank you so much – seriously, thank you so much. This is the nicest thing you have ever done for me.”
It was hard, at that exact moment, to keep my mouth shut and simply say “You’re welcome.” I mean, come on – the nicest thing I’ve ever done for him? Seriously? Readers, I have done many MUCH nicer things for him, including always doing all the gift shopping for his family members for holidays, birthdays and similar occasions. In that moment, though, I realized he felt like taking out the garbage was one of the nicest things I had ever done, and instead of sniping about having to do it in the first place or pointing out the many other things I do, I actually kept my trap shut and instead offered to make him a bowl of grape nuts.
We are coming up on our thirteenth wedding anniversary sand I really feel like it’s only been in the last couple of years that Ian and I have truly learned to care for one another well. Part of this, I have no doubt, is due to how young we were when we married. Barely out of college and poorer than dirt-poor, he found my attempts to cook healthy dinners or take care of him when he was sick smothering, like his mother – I found his attempts to care for me either paternalistic or substantially lacking. There were times we both just wanted to move back in with our parents. In the years since we have made strides – both in accepting help when we needed it and providing it when necessary. There are times during a marriage when one person is going to have to carry a heavier load than the other and it certainly tests our grace, compassion, and even the promised unconditional love when this happens.
I have seen and supported Ian through bouts of depression and flare-ups of his painful autoimmune disorder – he has seen me through bouts of anxiety, a scare with my pregnancy and various sprained and broken ankles and feet. When these periods occur we slow down and take things day by day and even with that sometimes things felt like too much to bear but every time we see a difficult period through we’ve come out happier, stronger, with a deeper sense of joy and love than we had before.
I feel sad when I hear of marriage endings after three or five or even seven years (unless, of course, they end because of infidelity, financial lies or verbal or physical abuse) – while I realize that some people end up marrying the wrong person or find themselves deeply unhappy in their marriages, I do feel so many hiccups and issues are surmountable. It takes time to learn how to love someone the way they need to be loved, and to receive that love in return – and illnesses, financial troubles and mid-life crises are going to occur.
I love whenI get to spend time with couples that have been married for decades – couples who have seen each other through career changes, raising children, deaths in the family, unexpected illnesses. Maybe he is a little rough around the edges from a lifetime of too much sun and red meat – maybe her middle-age spread spread a little bit further than she ever intended – they might have five children, or none at all – traveled extensively or rarely left the town they live in – probably they’ve each lost someone close to them and more than likely at least one of them has faced a chronic illness of some sort – and they still like spending time together. She still worries if he doesn’t eat breakfast – he makes sure she takes an extra sweater to the airport because it’s always cold there, summer or winter. I find the affection between couples like these almost palpable, and I’m almost always driven to say something to Ian like “I really really really hope we get to grow old together!”
He always says, calmly, “Of course we will.” Sometimes his quiet confidence is all the assurance I need – others, it’s all I can do not to say something like “As long as you don’t fall in love with some else, or pass away from a deadly disease or something!”
I don’t fully remember why I cast my lot with Ian so many years ago. I have no doubt a large part of it was the fact that I knew I wanted to stay with him, and staying with him meant moving to North Carolina so he could go to grad school at Duke, and in order to do that without being disowned by my parents meant an engagement – I never would have been brave enough, at twenty-one, to make such a move otherwise. I also recall surveying the young men I was graduating college with and seeing little but a lifetime centered around Lions football games on Sundays and endless, endless rounds of golf, but I’m old enough now to know that would have had its own kind of beauty and security. And, of course, I loved him! Truthfully, I loved Ian since I met him at summercamp when we were teenagers, I loved him even more once we began dating and I love him even more than that, now, thirteen years into our marriage.
But I wouldn’t say I learned to care for him – nor did he know how to let me do so – until just recently.
The other day I was having a conversation with the wife of a colleague, and I was gently teasing her about all the food she prepares for him every time she left town. This is something I would never do for Ian, nor would he want me to – he likes to indugle in the foods he loves that I don’t when I’m away. There is a pretty significant age gap between this woman and my colleague (thirteen years) and she said to me, with all sincerity, “If I don’t make bolognese, then he’ll order pizza. I take care of him – it’s what I do.” Part of me was slightly taken aback by her sincerity, but mostly I thought she was onto something – something that took both me and Ian years to learn.
What about you? Are you and your partner good at taking care of each other, physically and emotionally? Or is it something you had to grow into, learn how to do?